On December 9th, 2013, thirteen year old Jahi McMath went into the hospital for what should have been a routine, though complex surgery. She was to have her tonsils, adenoids and some sinus material removed, but she ended up on a ventilator. She came through the surgery, began to bleed, and went into cardiac arrest. Now she is the center of a legal battle to end her life against the wishes of her parents that is eerily reminiscent of the Terri Schiavo case. The Schiavo case was fought in court from 1990 until Terri was legally starved to death at the behest of her husband, Michael Schiavo, in 2005. This was against the wishes of Terri’s family, who since have gone on to become activists who speak all over the country in regard to what happened to their daughter/sister. They prove how vulnerable we all are unless we take steps to prevent a death like Terri’s through educating ourselves and preparing advance directives. Terri’s brother Bobby Schindler wrote the forward to my book, A Ballad for Baghdad, and the family has become very dear to me. They have also saved lives, and may God bless them for the price they have paid to do so.
Back to Jahi and her battle. Children’s Hospital Oakland has declared Jahi to be brain dead, and wants to take her off the ventilator. They are also withholding food and water against the parent’s wishes. There is a facility that specializes in severe cases like this located in New York that is willing to take her, but in order to transport her, she needs to have a tracheotomy, and no one at Children’s is being allowed to perform the surgery because they “don’t operate on dead people.” Fine, have the coroner do it. He or she operates on dead people all the time, and could probably do a trach in their sleep.
There has been a legal song and dance that has swayed like something you would see on Dancing With The Stars. First the hospital was going to let her go, then changed its mind. Now the family is waiting to see if a surgeon from the outside the hospital will do the surgery. The medi-flight to transport her has been donated, the way has been made for her to be housed at New Beginnings in New York, and her family waits. The courts have determined that they will turn off the ventilator on January 7th if no one comes forward to perform the surgery.
Jahi’s family are people of faith, and they are praying for a miracle. Now, you may not believe God does miracles today because they became a moot point after the New Testament was completed, but you got to me too late. I’ve seen them, and I have experienced them. But that’s not the point. Even if her family is just raving in pain and denial, no miracle is going to happen, and won’t let her go, is it the right of the hospital to block the moving of a patient on a ventilator? Ironically, little Jahi told her family before she went in that she was afraid she was not going to wake up after the surgery. Forebodings can be creepy, especially when they happen to kids, and I have no doubt there was a purpose to her uneasiness.
At the least, the hospital is going to have answer for what happened in the surgery, and the inhumanity of their supposedly humane regulations. At the most, a system that only stands to become more power hungry might be about to experience a Waterloo. Let’s pray that is the case.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner